Issued For Construction documentation (IFC) and BIM Have you ever experienced a notion that you are failing to grasp something supposedly self-explanatory? Many expats who start working in the GCC construction industry face the same puzzle when they encounter IFC documentation for the first time. How can Issued For Construction is not meant to be used for constructing anything directly out of it? Therefore the people who spend their entire careers in the Gulf Region struggle to understand what is supposedly so odd about that. The subject of IFC may not seem like the most relevant thing to discuss in a BIM related magazine, but in reality the content of IFC documentation defines the content of the IFC stage BIM model. One of the main deliverables for a consultant and the starting point for a main contractor. BIM is meant to ease the construction process, so it’s worth taking a look at this important process. documented in order to effectively communicate the employer’s needs directly to the supply chain.
Construction process in Europe versus GCC
The design process is quite similar all over the world. Consecutive stages of a project may have slightly different names but in principle ones starts with a client brief, creates the concept, develops design and secures required local authorities approvals. Afterwards comes the tender and bidding. The contract is then awarded and construction commences.
However contract’s procurement route can vary depending on factors such as a size, complexity of the project, client’s requirements and locations. So whereas in Europe it is a good practice to specify particular suppliers prior to tender and get some quotations beforehand. In GCC specific suppliers are not named. Consequently the Main Contractor is deemed contractually responsible for all coordination work and subcontractors usually enter the project during construction stage. Going back to Europe, where specialised suppliers enter the design process before the contract is awarded. Architect is (in principle) responsible for execution stage documentation. As a result of that, not only coordination burden lays in the Architect’s hands but also all the manufacturer’s related information is defined and can be easily embedded in the BIM model.
Pros and cons Of course both construction approaches; European and the Middle Eastern, have their pros and cons. Fair competition would require not favouring specific suppliers as in the GCC situation. In the case of large scale hospitals, medical equipment become outdated so quickly that specifying equipment during design- 3- 5 years before its installation, can be deemed a waste of time. On the other hand if the MEP subcontractor is involved during design process and all the equipment is specified by name and manufacture before Tender, then there is no excuse for not having coordinated execution stage BIM model delivered by consultant. One of the main benefits of MEP BIM model is the automated generation of openings inside cast in place concrete for MEP routing as explained later.
Market specific BIM Both European and GCC procurement route impact BIM project set up in a different way. Therefore BIM implementation requires customised market with a specific approach. One can dream of supplier’s details being entered into family/object properties during Tender/IFC stage but when this information is not available it would not happen. More over given the material approval process, (the process requiring that every product needs to be approved by the consultant before contractor can proceed with procurement) –this information usually comes very late in the process. Naturally BIM model is fed with different information at different pace and this is when Agile and other project management methodologies gain importance.
Agile principles Agile stands for: being able to move quickly and easily. In principle an agile project is completed in small sections called iterations. The main benefit of agile project management is its ability to respond to issues as they arise throughout the duration of the project. Making a necessary change to a project at the right time can save resources and, ultimately, help deliver a successful project on time and within budget. Working within Agile environment relies on collaboration, innovation & open communication something crucial in any field that is dependent on advanced software skills. After that comes diversity, creativity, transparency of decision making and questioning ideas.
Agile in BIM The Agile concept fits well into BIM environment. A successful execution of any BIM project comes down to 3 aspects: understanding BIM as a process, knowledge of construction industry and software skills. Guidelines and standards help setting up a successful environment but once the project is on site quick adaptation to changing conditions can differentiate between failure and success. Every project is unique, add to that BIM and different stakeholder’s requirements and all of sudden creativity and innovation become instrumental. In the words of Einstein one can’t expect different results when doing the same thing over and over again. Circumstances change quickly and technology even faster.
Evolving industry In 2011 I was working on a construction stage BIM project where Rhino models were contractual and between the Main Contractor office and major Sub-contractors we were using 5 different platforms. The platforms we used were Revit, AutoCAD, Rhino, Digital Project and Tekla. The conversion between Tekla and Revit back then did not work and we had to get creative and bypassed it by conversion to dwg file which Revit was able to read. Four years forward, when working on a UAE based hospital we managed to combine Tekla originated models inside Revit nearly seamlessly and generate shop drawings directly out of them. Coming back to MEP Subcontractor’s appointment which was mentioned earlier, MEP openings are one of the most important components on the structural shop drawings, affecting construction program, cost and often architecture of the building as well. They may not seem like the most exciting issue to discuss but at the same time it is one of the first problems that main contractors face. And the reason for this is that most of the time the drawings with openings have to be delivered before the MEP subcontractors are on board. At this stage it is less down to specifying BIM content but more to working together with engineering team in order to solve the issue in the most satisfactory way. In other words collaboration, innovation and risk mitigation. It’s difficult to follow the set in stone standards as every time we end up doing it in a different way but this is absolutely fine. The message here is that it’s worth thinking of MEP openings in terms of project management exercise using agile method of working, rather than simply in BIM terms. Not everything has to be decided at once and things can be quickly adapted as needed. Or to put in another way, regardless of the preferred solution, being open minded and adapting quickly always pays off and this is precisely what Agile represents.